You don't need to fork over big bucks – or even any bucks – to keep your online activities and identity secret. The open source community has dozens of privacy-related projects in development, and some of them have already proven themselves to be among the best privacy protection tools available.
These tools are targeted at three broad groups of people. First are products aimed at the general public. Everyone with a computer needs applications like firewalls, anti-spyware, intrusion prevention, and password management. But there are also email encryption, anonymous file sharing, anonymous surfing, and other apps for those with more pressing privacy needs.
Sure, these tools can be used for nefarious purposes, but they are also used by journalists reporting from hostile environments, citizens of countries who don't respect free speech rights, military and intelligence personnel, whistleblowers, and others who worry that "Big Brother" might be watching.
Finally, open source developers have created a number of tools aimed at their fellow coders who need help adding encryption to their applications.
We've included projects aimed at all three groups in our list of 40 open source tools for protecting your privacy. So whether you're Joe Schmo or James Bond, a geek or just paranoid, you're sure to find at least a couple of apps on our list that can help you keep your personal data secret.
TorK is a frontend that allows you to access the anonymous Tor network from the KDE desktop. It gives you one-click access to anonymous surfing, e-mail, and chat. Operating System: Linux, Unix.
A type III anonymous remailer, Mixminion offers both client and server code for sending and receiving email that is difficult to trace. Note that this is still a work in progress aimed primarily at developers or the technically knowledgeable. Operating System: Windows, Unix, OS X.
With Zmail, all you need to know is your SMTP server address, and you can send email "from anyone to anyone." It's great for sending anonymous messages or sending a quick message when you don't want to wait for your regular mail application to load. Operating System: OS Independent.
The most popular implementation of the type II remailer protocol, Mixmaster makes it easy to send email anonymously or under an alias. The site offers both client and server versions. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X, BSD.
Nixory protects against malicious cookies and other data mining tools when you are using Firefox. It's fast and works alongside other anti-spyware and anti-virus programs. Operating System: OS Independent.
One of the tricks spyware employs is to disguise itself as a Browser Helping Object (BHO), essentially integrating itself into Internet Explorer or other browsers. This tool finds BHOs and helps you determine if they are spyware so that you can remove them manually. Operating System: Windows.
This app monitors your memory usage to detect spyware while it's running. Note that this is an older project and only works with Windows XP. Operating System: Windows.
8. Areca Backup
Areca not only makes it easy to backup your system, it also compresses and encrypts your files using Triple DES and AES encryption algorithms. You can store your files on any medium, and it includes a number of advanced features such as delta backup, as of date recovery, and more. Operating System: OS Independent.
Before you donate that old PC, you really need to make sure you've completely destroyed all the passwords, account numbers, and other personally identifiable information it contains. DBAN does just that: just slip in a disk and it will completely erase the entire drive. Operating System: OS Independent.
If you need to erase just one or two files, Eraser does the trick. It overwrites data multiple times so that it cannot be recovered with most forensic tools. Operating System: Windows.
PeaZip not only compresses files so they take up less space, it also encrypts files to secure them for transit or archival. It can create files in 10 of the most popular archive formats, and it can read files in 79 different formats. Operating System: Windows.
12. KGB Archiver
This tool combines an incredibly high compression rate with strong AES-256 encryption. On the down side, in order to use it, you'll need a fairly robust system: 1.5GHz processor and 256MB RAM is the bare minimum. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X, BSD.
This replacement for the old Unix crypt command gives developers an easy way to add encryption to their code. It can protect files or data streams and supports 22 different algorithms. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, BSD.
Crypto++ is a free library of cryptography tools for C++. It includes dozens of algorithms, password-based key derivation functions, a prime number generator, and much more. Operating System: OS Independent.
If you need to add encryption to your code, but don't have a deep understanding of cryptography, Jasypt is for you. It uses high-security, standards-based encryption techniques that allow you to encrypt passwords, texts, numbers, and more. Operating System: OS Independent.
Want to learn more about encryption and cryptography? JcrypTool is an Eclipse-based e-learning tool that makes it easy to experiment with various encryption mechanisms and learn more about how they work. Operating System: OS Independent.
TruCrypt can encrypt a single file, an entire drive, or a partition. It can also create virtual encrypted disks or encrypt portable hard drives and USB flash drives. Operating System: Windows, Mac, Linux.
AxCrypt makes encrypting files extremely easy for Windows users. You simply open Windows Explorer, right-click files, and you're done. Operating System: Windows.
DiskCryptor performs similar functions as TrueCrypt, but has a less restrictive license. The project home page is not in English, but the link here will take you to the English part of the site. Operating System: Windows.
20. a href="https://albinoloverats.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13">Encrypt
Designed to be as lightweight as possible, Encrypt is easy to use and offers strong encryption. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix.
Need to transfer files securely? WinSCP supports SFTP, as well as FTP and SCP. Operating System: Windows.
22. RetroShare With RetroShare, you set up your own network simply by sending your friends a key. Chats and file transfers are encrypted by OpenSSL to protect your privacy. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, BSD.
Unlike other P2P networks, this anonymous network avoids all direct connections between sharing partners. Inspired by the behavior of ants, MUTE routes traffic through several nodes, making it much more difficult to track. Operating System: OS Independent.
This P2P file-sharing client offers an alternate front-end for accessing the MUTE network. Key features include multi-source downloads, swarming, and two-level search. Operating System: Windows, Linux.
This project provides an interface to the anonymous StealthNet P2P network (formerly known as Rshare Community Edition). The Web site also links to a Wiki for helpful tips on how to configure the program for maximum privacy. Operating System: OS Independent.
Gateway Security Appliance
Untangle offers an all-in-one approach to security and privacy protection. It includes firewall, anti-spyware, intrusion prevention, Web filtering, anti-spam, anti-virus, VPN, and more into one download that can be used to turn any PC into a security appliance. Operating System: Linux.
Similar to Untangle, the Community edition of Endian Firewall Community offers an open-source way to turn an old system into a unified threat management appliance. It includes firewall, anti-virus, anti-spam, content filtering, and a VPN. Operating System: Linux.
No list of open-source privacy tools would be complete without Snort, the most widely used intrusion detection and prevention system in the world. Key features include real-time traffic analysis, protocol analysis, content searching, packet logging, and more. Operating System: Mac, Linux, Unix, BSD, Solaris.
A favorite with large organizations, OSSEC offers advanced intrusion detection capabilities and runs on nearly all platforms. Its capabilities include real-time alerting, file integrity checking, log analysis, Windows registry monitoring, and rootkit detection. Operating System: Windows, Mac, Linux, Unix, BSD, Solaris.
Looking for privacy tools for your Blackberry? This package includes a password safe and a signal location utility. Operating System: Blackberry.
If you have an old system sitting around, IPCop lets you take that box and turn it into a firewall to protect your personal or small business network. It's Linux-based and includes remote management. Operating System: Linux.
Winner of numerous awards, SmoothWall calls itself "The World's Favourite Network Firewall." The open-source Express version is designed for small networks, while enterprise users are encouraged to purchase the commercial SmoothWall Limited. Operating System: Linux.
33. FREESCO Router
This Linux-based tool includes firewall, NAT, and a router/server that fits on a single floppy disk. Its designed as an alternative to more expensive routers from Cisco, 3-Com, Nortel, or others. Operating System: Linux.
Short for "Linux Embedded Appliance Framework," LEAF can be used as an Internet gateway, router, firewall, or wireless access point. The Web site also includes links to a number of branches that add other functionality, notably Oxygen, which adds network debugging to firewall capabilities. Operating System: Linux.
35. jPDF Tweak
This app lets you make lots of changes to pdf files, including combining multiple files, splitting files, re-ordering pages, and most important for a list of privacy tools, encrypting and decrypting files. It's written in Java, so you can use it on any OS, and it is available in both compact and normal versions. Operating System: OS Independent.
KeePassX stores usernames, passwords, urls, and attachments in a database encrypted with either AES or Twofish. It also includes a password generator and advanced grouping and labeling functions which make it easy to manage your passwords. Operating System: OS Independent.
This a Web-based project that encrypts data using the Blowfish algorithm. Unlike other password managers, this one makes it easy to access your passwords even when you're not using your own system—just log in to the phpChain site. Operating System: OS Independent.
Personal Information Manager
Total Text Container stores all of your important and potentially sensitive information in one place under multi-layer encryption. From this one app you can access email, contacts, text files, diagrams, spreadsheets, bookmarks, passwords, money transactions, and more. Operating System: Windows.
Based on Internet Junkbuster, Privoxy lets you set up a proxy server for privacy protection, Web filtering, removing ads, etc. It's easy to customize, and can be used with a network or a standalone system. Operating System: Windows, Linux, Unix, OS X, BSD, Solaris.
Supporting http, https, and socks, this is a fast, relatively easy-to-configure proxy server. It also supports an anonymous P2P proxy network. Operating System: Windows, Linux.